Published on December 29th, 2015 | by Debbie Martin0
The golden retriever is a classic dog breed, instantly recognised by dog-lover across the world. It’s featured heavily in pop culture, thanks to the distinctive coat of golden-blonde fur from which it draws its name. It’s played huge parts in classic children’s films like ‘Homeward Bound’, and in classic children’s television shows like ‘Blue Peter’. This is no accident – as we shall see, the breed is one which children love, thanks to its incredible patience and gentle temperament.
Let’s take a closer look at this enormously popular breed – and see how it might fit into your home life.
Profile: What is a Golden Retriever?
The golden retriever is covered in two coats of hair. While we might instantly recognised the shining, sleek topcoat, it’s the bottom coat that actually does most of the practical work, keeping the animal cool during the winter and hot during the summer. The topcoat’s role is more supplementary; it shields the bottom coat against the elements, and prevents it from becoming sodden and ineffective.
History: Where did the Golden Retriever come from?
Whilst the source of the ‘golden’ element of this breed’s name is clear, what isn’t quite so clear is where the latter part of the name came from. Just what is being retrieved, here?
The answer, as is so often the case with pedigree dogs, stems from the breed’s function. Golden retrievers were originally bred as gun dogs – they would help a hunter to search for game, and then shoot it. The dog would then retrieve the game from wherever it might have landed – and, crucially, they’d do so without tearing the game to shreds with their teeth. This quality was especially useful, and retrievers came to be named after it.
The retriever actually came about thanks to improvements in weapons technology. Hunters, increasingly, were shooting over greater distances – since they no longer had to get very close to their quarry in order to kill them. This led to many game being lost in the field, and many hunters to spend hours fruitlessly searching through the undergrowth in search of downed birds. It was therefore necessary that the retriever be developed.
The precise origins of the Golden Retriever are still hotly contested. Most agree, however, that the first person to develop the breed was Dudley Majoribanks, the first Baron of Tweedmouth. He who took the existing varieties of retriever and made it truly golden. This was proven once and for all in 1952, after the baron’s breeding records were finally published.
The first attempt at this crossing was between a yellow retriever and a spaniel. The former was a member of an entirely black litter of retriever puppies, while the latter was a member of breed that is now extinct, the Tweed Water Spaniel, but which was common during the 19th century. From here, Majoribanks set about crafting a breed that was powerful and capable, and yet friendly and amenable to commands. Contrary to popular myth, Majoribanks did not use Russian Sheepdogs in his experiments, preferring instead a mixture of hunting dogs from around the British Isles.
Some years after Majoribanks’ death in 1894, the Golden retriever was recognised by the Kennel Club – but it wasn’t until 1920 that the name was finally adopted. Since then, however, the name has stuck like glue, and the breed has been exported to both the United States and Canada, where breeders have created distinctly different, and yet still recognisably golden, varieties of this mainstay of pedigree dog breeding.
Personality: What is a Golden Retriever like to own?
Of course, looks alone aren’t quite enough to explain the retriever’s stupendous popularity. This is explained better by the retriever’s other defining quality: its temperament. Put simply, golden retrievers are a joy to own; they are friendly, patient and good with strangers and even other animals. For this reason, you’ll often find Golden Retrievers living on farms, as they’re able to co-exist peacefully with livestock.
That said, the breed is not suitable in all circumstances. They prefer contact with a wide variety of humans, and so other breeds are perhaps more suitable for those living alone. They’re also ineffective as guard dogs, as they’re incapable of intimidating anyone – they’re just too friendly!
If you’re looking for a dog for a household containing children, however, the Golden retriever makes an ideal candidate. They’re eager to please, intelligent, and willing to learn; all traits that make them great for teaching tricks. You don’t need to treat them harshly to get the best from them – with a little gentle encouragement, they’re more than smart enough to obey even the most clumsily-expressed commands!
Thanks to its obedience and good nature, the breed is often used as a guide dog for the blind, or as a hearing dog for the deaf. If they can be trusted with such a responsibility, then they can be trusted as family pets – and that’s why millions do.
Any Special Considerations?
Like many pedigree breeds of dog, the Golden retriever is particularly sensitive to certain diseases. And like many hunting breeds, one of them is hip dysplasia. This is a condition which sees the ball-and-socket joint tethering the femur to the hip fall out of place. The result is pain, and often total lameness for the dog later in life.
In order to avoid this, it’s important that you buy from a reputable vendor, and one which can prove that the dog’s parents have been screened against dysplasia. The matter is complicated further when you consider another trait of the breed – its prodigious appetite. Golden Retrievers just love to eat!
Unfortunately, this means that obesity is a real risk – particularly if the dog isn’t getting enough exercise. As the dog gets fatter, an increased strain will be placed on its joints, which further increases the likelihood of dysplasia. It’s therefore hugely important to give your dog plenty of exercise throughout its life – this will not only make the dog happy, but guard against the development of nasty pathologies. You can also purchase food that is particularly created for the breed.